Laura Reynolds scrawled a simple message for students on the floor of the brand new Franklin School this week: “Don’t try to blend in, you were born to stand out.”

“I think that’s an important message for anybody to hear,” said Reynolds, the dean of the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Department of Education.

Reynolds, along with donors, community members and onlookers got a sneak peek inside the Northside’s new school Wednesday. A partnership between the Northside Development Group, the Mary Black Foundation and other groups, the new early learning school is set to open in January.

Aimed at serving children from 6 weeks to 5 years old, the Franklin School is designed to offer young people in Spartanburg’s Northside and surrounding communities a chance to make the most of their early years, when brain development moves at a rapid pace. The roughly $10 million center could ultimately serve up to 200 students.

Enrollment opened in April. It will offer full-year, full-day programming, and will charge tuition. Tuition will be on a sliding scale based on rates at comparable early childhood education facilities.

The parking lot remains gravel, there’s plenty of groundskeeping left to do, and the interior has little of the fit and finish it will once it’s completed, but this week’s tour offered an up-close look at just how open the new school’s interior spaces are. The one-story structure, which features plenty of natural lighting, is set to be completed by Harper Construction in November.

The center includes large window walls, extra-wide hallways and an outdoor playground accessible from all classrooms.

Shawna Bynum brings years of child development experience to her new gig at The Franklin School.

Her most important priority in the months leading up to, and after, the school’s opening? Building relationships.

“That’s going to be so important with staff, students and parents — especially with parents,” said Bynum, the school’s director. “I think the most important thing early on is to respect the fact that the parent is always the first teacher. So you build a relationship, understanding and trust with them and everything flows from that. I plan to really focus on that.”

Through a partnership with University of South Carolina Upstate, the Franklin School also will provide training and internships for students in the university’s Child Development and Family Studies Program.

Reynolds said the school will have an observation room equipped with technology to allow USC Upstate students to observe the children, and allow USC Upstate staff to analyze and learn from the data collected inside the school.

“We can have some 30 or 40 Upstate students rotate through here, but there’s a lot more that we can all learn through the data that’s gathered here,” Reynolds said. “There’s a lot of lessons that we’ll be able to learn from this.”

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